Monday, March 15, 2010

"Safety First" (Guest post by Kristie Pope)

Guest post by Kristie Pope, club owner of Carpe Pilam
Our team jokes a lot of the time that our motto is "Safety First," you know, the kind where your second start after a false start is a .2 something. But lately "Safety First" to me means not getting to play flyball at all. In our region, of the tournaments being held currently (between October 2009 through June 2010), 33% of them are being held at Durham Kennel Club.

Durham Kennel Club (DKC) is a small building that used to be used for tournaments that were called "no frills" and "warm up for..." The venue does not have ample runback (it has 46 feet) and several teams, ourselves included, are very limited on what dogs we can run at this site. Some of the faster teams don’t go at all because of the runback. People face their dogs sideways and backwards to try to start on the second light and someone is constantly swinging their dog into other teammates or other dogs. Usually after a tournament there is at least one hole in the wall in the runback. The last tournament there were two, one in each lane.

The DKC also has a huge problem with ticks. Last year we had one dog diagnosed with Erlichea, one human diagnosed with Lyme’s and another human with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. We have several children on our team who we have to worry about as well. The ticks there are the very small ticks that are impossible to see on your dog. There are regular brown ticks as well, but at least you find them in the next few days to remove. The ticks I have had resemble freckles. My teammate's tick that carried Lyme’s was under a small scab where the spot had been itching. It took a doctor with a scope to find it. And when I say ticks, I mean a lot of them. My husband will pull at least a dozen off each day.

Each time I have brought up the ticks I have been told, "Just stay in the parking lot like we do, and don’t walk your dogs in the grass." DKC has very limited parking and unless you are there super early you have to park in the grass and along the perimeter of the grounds, where the ticks are rampant. Now I realize dogs can pick up ticks anywhere, but if I hear of a park or walking trail that is heavy with ticks I will not be walking my dog there. Why? Safety!

I have boycotted tournaments at this site for about a year now. A few of my teammates will go with a small dog or an old dog that they are trying to rack up points on. I have loaned height dogs to a few teams playing there in the winter months but will not be letting my dogs run there during the warmer months. Because of this I am now missing out on many of my regional tournaments.

I figured the solution was to find a better site and host our own tournament. The only problem is, when? With DKC tournaments stuck in every vacant spot I don’t see a feasible time for our team to hold a tournament without going into the summer months, which would raise a whole new safety concern (it gets really hot down here, and a lot of the flyball buildings are not air-conditioned).

I doubt the hosting team is interested in finding a new site. DKC is cheap (I am sure it is a fantastic money-making tournament as the entry fees do not reflect the low cost of renting the small building) and the hosting club is used to the space, it’s where they practice weekly. Out of the twelve tournaments currently listed in our region, four are at DKC and one is an eight hour drive away in York, PA (yes, I am region 9, NC, SC, VA, WV). That leaves seven out of twelve tournaments for me and my team to attend.

It is my understanding that at the last tournament held at DKC there was a pretty intense dog fight in the runback between two seasoned flyball dogs (with seasoned handlers, for that matter). I can only assume that the tight runback space contributed to the fight (these dogs are housemates and although one has been involved in an altercation at a tournament before the other has not that I am aware of). There were holes knocked through the walls of the runback in both lanes, even though they had covered the walls with padding to try and prevent it (it’s not the first holes, by any means). Clearly this tells you that there is not enough room in the building for flyball!

So currently my dogs will not be in the highest earning dogs of the year, my team will not win a regional even if we won the tournaments we went to (which we always come in third anyway!), and I will find myself seeking out U-FLI tournaments for the first time ever to find somewhere safe to play. Our club will probably host our first tournament ever with U-FLI. It stinks, I have been with NAFA for 10 years and am a little attached to them, but how can I continue to play in a NAFA region where tournaments are held at a venue that I truly consider unsafe for humans and dogs? Of course, I could travel 8 hours away...


Kim said...

I can definitely understand not wanting to run at DKC. It is a small building and fast dogs that need more room can't always run there safely. But for me the whole infested by ticks would be the actual reason I wouldn't attend. Those darn things are nasty and not always easy to see. Not to mention that you could bring them home with you and that causes a whole other issue.

Safety First is a great motto. I commend you for it. FBI tries to do have the same motto except we want safety and fun to go hand in hand.

Irene Cotter said...

I for one would be thrilled if Carpe Pilam hosted multiple Region 9 tournaments! One of the reasons DGF decided to host more tournaments was to give us an opportunity to stay closer to home. But it's a ton of work setting up a tournament - those mats are heavy! We spend hours setting up and tearing down, not to mention the hours that Amanda contributes making racing schedules and doing all the other stuff that she does. It would be great to be able to just go to a tournament and not have to worry about all that stuff!
I don't know what one needs to do to get a tournament sanctioned, or how far in advance one needs to request a date. You could ask Amanda and I'm sure she would help you out.

Irene Cotter

Anonymous said...

Come to York, Kristie, I haven't seen you guys in a while!! :-)

Happily Evfur After

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kristie on the Dkc Tournaments. I do not think it's safe for the dogs nor fair to the competitors to host in that building. I have routinely heard folks LAUGHING about the holes in the back wall. This means you think it's funny that dogs are getting slammed into the back wall. I don't care how thin the walls are, that's abuse. I can't imagine how anyone that loves their pets can think it's funny. And how demotivating! Dogs either need to check up all weekend or slam into the wall or their teammates. My mid 4 BC shut totally down in that building because of the close/cramped space. It's dangerous. I can't imagine the negative impact a newspaper article on this tournament would have on our sport. I'll host a tournament that an opening elimination round, any team unable to run under 18 seconds is dismissed for the weekend. Only fast dogs allowed. Everyone would be in an uproar. Yet, it's perfectly fine to continue to host tournaments where owners of faster dogs (all dogs if you factor in the ticks) have to choose between safety and points. I choose safety.

Anonymous said...

I am not familiar with that region or that building, but ran into a similiar situation in Ontario. The tournament was advetised as having sufficient runback, but when we got there, it was only about 48 feet. My dog is used to starting back around 48 feet (she runs in the low 4's in lead), but I couldn't start her in her usual really threw her off all weekend.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Alberta (Region 12) several years ago, when one venue had 40.5 feet of runback, and another had 45 feet. I've never seen as many false starts as I did at the 40.5 venue, and to start a fast dog at the 45 foot venue, handlers would have the dog's butt up against the wall and the body turned sideways. Lots of close calls on runbacks. The only reason these venues were used and teams showed up was that they were the only tournaments offered in winter. Fortunately both venues are no longer used for dog sports, but if it's still a problem elsewhee, the solution to try is to send a proposal to NAFA requesting a longer minimum runback, perhaps to 60 feet, with consideration given to a "grandfather" clause allowing host clubs who have held tournaments in nonconforming venues in the past to continue using those venues.
Ahh, what the heck. I'll put that on my to do list for next week.

Pete Ness

Anonymous said...

We had a building like that and that's why we stopped hosting tournaments and fun matches there. Just too dangerous, and detrimental to fast dogs/any dogs for that matter. Yes, there were holes in the back walls too. I would like to see NAFA include some kind of minimum runback rule for safety sake. The sport has changed a lot in 10 years.

Anonymous said...

I've taken sending a proposal to NAFA off my to do list because my contacts tell me an increase in minimum runbacks is being considered by the rules committee as we speak.


Lisa, what's up with that "Select profile" thing?

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